Eating Disorder Awareness Week: The Vital Role of Friends And Family

I have not always had supportive friends and family when it comes to my eating disorder. In fact there were years of pain where people didn’t understand or walked out of my life and I have never felt so lonely and isolated.

Nowadays I am extremely lucky to have the support I do. My parents visit the hospital everyday, my sister visits everytime she has a Saturday off work and I have several friends who visit often too. On top of this is the incredible online support, my twitter followers who send well wishes and the comments on my instagram that keep me going. I no longer feel alone in my battle and whilst hospital can be an isolating experience, I feel much less isolated than I used to.

I have lost many friends because of my illness, people who simply couldn’t cope backed out of my life and it really hurt. For years I kept my illness from my extended family and wouldn’t talk about it to my immediate family. This caused tension, loneliness, arguments, upset and total utter misery. Now I am much more open and I am both lucky and truly grateful for the support I receive from the people in my life.

Friends play a key role for sufferers of eating disorders, they are often the only part of ‘normality’ left in a sufferers life. Right now I am very unwell but I love nothing more than to have a gossip and a giggle with my friends. I don’t always want to talk about anorexia, sometimes it’s nice to take silly photos on Snapchat and to make plans for the future.

The role of the family is vital, particularly if they are the people the sufferer is living with. I know it is not easy for my family to deal with my eating disorder. I am well aware that they are heartbroken by how poorly I am at the moment and that before I came into hospital I was hard to live with. I was often in a bad mood with a short temper, particularly around meal times. I would eat separately to them most of the time and if they were in the kitchen when I was food prepping I would be very stressed out. They had to deal with a lot, especially coming home to empty cupboards during periods of binge eating. But I needed them. I needed them so much. Their love and support meant the world to me and without them I probably wouldn’t still be alive. We used to not talk about anorexia but now we are so very open with each other and it has brought us closer together. I have an incredible relationship with my family and I feel both lucky and thankful for this everyday. My friends and family both play an incredibly vital role in my life and my recovery.

My Family Means Everything

Growing up I was never that close to my parents, I loved them. I loved them a lot but I kept a lot from them. I had so many secrets and they were never where I turned for support and guidance. Now that has changed massively, they are my everything and I conceal nothing from them.

During my time on the acute psychiatric ward my parents visited every single day. I didn’t always tell them how I truly was and we didn’t really talk about my illness but having them there and hearing their voices gave me the support I so desperately needed. When I was in PICU (psychiatric intensive care unit) they visited when they were allowed even though they hated the place and hated even more seeing me, their little girl, in that place. I was then placed in a low secure unit around an hours drive away from my parents, they were only allowed to visit once a week and only for an hour. I phoned them everyday but I still found it incredibly difficult to be without them. I would cry at the end of every single visit from them. Time became precious. Those 60 minutes brought us closer, I loved them with all my heart and I began to tell them things. I would explain on the phone that I was struggling with food or that I hadn’t managed any ensures. I just began to open up with them and it was easier than I ever imagined.

In December my physical state became critical due to anorexia and I was moved from the low secure unit to a general hospital as an emergency. This hospital is a half hour drive from my parents and they have been here every single day no matter what bar the day the car broke down. When I was first brought into this ward I wasn’t just physically poorly, I was in quite a bad emotional state too. Being discharged from the low secure unit made me feel as though I had failed at my placement and it was hard (despite how much I hated it there) to leave everything I had known for the past 8 months. The staff, the other patients, my responsible clinician. Everything that had been around me for those months, I expected to remain around me for a long time. Suddenly being torn out of that placement was really difficult and I needed my mum more than ever. I phoned her sobbing and within half an hour she was there at my bedside along with my dad. She held me as I sobbed to her that this felt like a nightmare.

My sister lives far away and works most Saturdays but you can guarantee when she has a Saturday off she will drive all the way up here to see me and that means the world to me. I am so grateful for the family I have and for everything they have done for me. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for them to see me so poorly and to have to work full time and find time to see their daughter everyday. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see my bedroom empty for the past 18 months and to know the places I am in, some which have been very scary to witness.

My family means everything to me and I am so in love with them. I wait for visiting hours excitedly everyday. I think of them constantly. Mum, Dad and Helen you are my world and I love you so much-thank you.